Amnesty International Calls "Corpus Christi" Prosecution "A Further Tragedy for Greece"

Press Release
November 16, 2012

Amnesty International Calls "Corpus Christi" Prosecution "A Further Tragedy for Greece"

Human Rights Group Condemns the Blasphemy Charges Levelled Against Play’s Cast and Crew

Contact: Carolyn Lang, clang@aiusa.org, 202-675-8761

(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International is calling on the Greek authorities to ensure freedom of expression to the organizers, producers and cast of a play called "Corpus Christi," who are reportedly facing prosecution for blasphemy. A lawsuit is understood to have been submitted by the Orthodox Bishop of Piraeus Serafeim, who claims that the play contains blasphemous messages, interpreted to include insinuations of homosexuality for figures revered by Christians.

"This is an alarming development for freedom of expression in Greece, especially following the prosecution of the journalist Kostas Vaxevanis a few weeks ago," said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s program director for Europe and Central Asia.

The case against Corpus Christi’s organizers, producers and cast emerged as Amnesty International learned that the prosecutor in Kostas Vaxevanis’ case has decided to appeal the journalist’s acquittal. Vaxevanis was charged with "breaching privacy" after publicizing the so-called Lagarde list of potential tax evasion suspects.

"The right to freedom of religion does not extend to having one’s religious beliefs protected by the state against criticism or commentary," said Dalhuisen, describing the current situation in Greece. "The Greek authorities must immediately and unconditionally drop the charges against the play’s producers and cast and fully respect freedom of expression."

On October 11, 2012, members of Christian groups and the far-right party Golden Dawn including some of the party’s MPs attempted to stop the premiere of the play by verbally abusing and threatening the actors and audience members. The producers of the play decided to pull the play three weeks after its premiere.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.